Arthritis

A holistic approach to the management of arthritis

Painful inflammation of a joint or joints is the general definition of arthritis. There are three main types of the disease: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. The degree of incapacitation caused by arthritis can vary hugely from one person to another. Many measures can be taken by the sufferer to help to alleviate their discomfort and minimise the condition. These may include a combination of dietary and lifestyle changes, supplements, together with the use of herbal and/or homeopathic remedies where appropriate. Such measures can be used as an alternative or an adjunct to orthodox medical. However initial diagnosis should always be made by a medical practitioner.

Osteoarthritis

This is a condition in which there is progressive degeneration of joint cartilage and is often termed wear and tear arthritis. Onset is usually gradual and is characterised by painful, stiff and enlarged joints. The joints most commonly affected are the weight-bearing joints of the hips and knees, but the shoulders, hands and spine may also be involved. The cause of most cases of osteoarthritis is not known, although excessive use of joints is probably the most significant factor. Other factors involved are congenital bone deformity, misalignment of the spine, persistent injury in athletes and obesity. People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from the disease, and it is more common in the elderly.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This is an inflammatory condition causing severe joint pain which begins in the hands and feet, wrists, ankles and knees. Its onset is often sudden and can be accompanied by a mild fever. It can affect the entire body, causing fatigue, weakness, joint pain and tenderness. Early morning stiffness is common. It may begin at any stage of life, but its incidence increases with age, arising most commonly between the ages of 35 and 55. It affects three times more women than men. Rheumatoid arthritis is also characterised by remissions which may last a while and occur between flare-ups of the condition. Little is known about what causes rheumatoid arthritis but it is thought that it may be an auto-immune response triggered perhaps by a viral infection. There also appears to be a genetic factor, as it is four times more likely to be found in those whose relatives have the illness.

Gout

This is an extremely painful form of arthritis which occurs when uric acid crystals are deposited in the joints, causing inflammation. Over-indulgence in meat and alcohol has traditionally been blamed for the condition, but there are other trigger factors, such as injuries, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for cancer, and a diet rich in saturated fats and refined carbohydrates. Onset may be sudden and it usually affects the base of the big toe initially (but can also affect the ankle, knee, wrist or elbow) which becomes itchy, red and swollen and is accompanied by excruciating pain. After a few days the pain and inflammation may subside and the joint returns to normal again until the next attack.

A Dietary Approach

Usually the only long-term solution to arthritis lies in a change in dietary habits. This involves cutting out acidforming foods such as red meat, pork, dairy products (milk, cheese, butter and cream), refined white flour and sugar products (notably baked goods, soft drinks and alcohol), tea and coffee. Highly processed foods and drinks which contain high amounts of additives should be eliminated. By following a largely vegetarian diet comprising plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains (especially millet) symptoms of arthritis have been greatly reduced in a trial group of sufferers. Having said that, it is important to avoid foods of the nightshade family (spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergine) and also citrus fruits. IAHS stores can provide the necessary advice and guidance in relation to dietary balance on a vegetarian diet. Herbal teas (particularly nettle) and coffee substitues are advised (a wide variety available in your IAHS store) and it is important to drink plenty of mineral water. Including cider vinegar and honey in the daily diet can be of benefit to some sufferers also.

Diet for Gout

All the above dietary measures will be of benefit to gout sufferers, but in addition they need to avoid purines in the diet which cause high uric acid levels in the blood. Examples of high-purine foods are red meat, organ meat, seafood, spinach, asparagus, anchovies, mushrooms and porridge, and all these should be avoided. It is important also to avoid alcohol as it blocks the elimination of uric acid. The diet should be rich in green vegetables, brown rice, millet, nuts, eggs. Goats milk and goats cheese are preferable to cows milk products. Vegetable juices, non-citrus juices (especially cherry juice) and mineral water are particularly helpful. More information on diet can be obtained at your local IAHS store.

Supplements, Herbal & Homeopathic Remedies

  • Vitamin A: Useful for all types of arthritis and best taken as a liquid cod liver oil supplement.
  • Vitamin C: Important for all types of arthritis. It is (+ bioflavanoids) preferable to use a non-acidic or buffered form (available in IAHS stores).
  • Vitamin E: Useful for all types of arthritis. Clinical trials have found it to be helpful in reducing pain.
  • Folic acid: Can be helpful to gout sufferers.
  • Minerals: Which are helpful for sufferers of osteo-art thritis and rheumatoid arthritis are Selenium, Zinc, Manganese and Copper and these can be taken separately or in combination with vitamins A, C and E in an antioxidant formulation.
  • Oils: Used in combination the following have been found to be useful in clinical trials in reducing inflammation; Fish oils – Borage oil – Evening primrose oil
  • Green-lipped mussel extract: Can help to reduce inflammation.
  • Glucosamine Sulphate: Helps repair damaged joints.
  • Devils claw: A potent anti-inflammatory herb which may also help to relieve pain.
  • Dandelion: Useful for all types of arthritis.
  • Celery: Particularly helpful to gout sufferers.
  • Nettle: Aids the reduction of acidity in the body and can be of use therefore in all types of arthritis.
  • Horsetail: Assists in the formation of cartilage around the joints.

There are a number of homeopathic remedies for arthritis. However it is important to seek professional homeopathic advice. Your IAHS store should be able to refer you to a list of registered homeopaths. In addition to the above remedies, a number of products are available in health stores to rub into the affected areas. These may help to alleviate pain and discomfort on a temporary basis.

Alternative therapies

A number of therapies can be useful for arthritis including massage, acupuncture, osteopathy and chiropractic. Enquire in your IAHS store as to what is available in your area which may be of assistance to you.

Lifestyle

Moderate daily exercise such as walking and swimming is of great benefit to the body and metabolism generally. This helps to alleviate a lot of the stiffness associated with arthritis by improving circulation to the joints. Walking is a weight-bearing exercise and helps to strengthen muscles and bones. Swimming is particularly good for joints which may not be able to bear too much weight and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) is excellent where there is a lot of pain. Gentle yoga exercise can be a great way to improve or maintain joint mobility. It has the added benefit of strengthening ones ability to cope with stress which inevitably exacerbates arthritic symptoms. There is so much we can do for ourselves by natural means. With the proper intelligent attitude perhaps we can live with things that cannot be remedied by leading as healthy a life as possible, by permitting our spirit to rise above our physical suffering – Alfred Vogel (naturopath).

A positive attitude of mind is perhaps the most important factor in the management of arthritis. By combining this with the suggested supplementation programme and by changing the diet as indicated, significant relief of painful symptoms can usually be achieved. Improvement is usually slow but persistance is nearly always rewarded in the long run.

Useful Reading

  • Diets to Help Arthritis by Helen MacFarlane
  • Curing Arthritis Diet Book by Margaret Hills
  • The Consumer Guide to Vitamins by Dowden and Lacey
  • Life without Arthritis by Jan deVries
  • The Nature Doctor by Alfred Vogel

This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a healthcare professional.

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